Old folk at lunch

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ISRAEL, JEWS, IMMIGRATION



The heading above draws attention to some of the most emotive issues in today's world but I have never been one to run from controversy and I am not going to start now. I just feel sorry for the Jewish people that the mere mention of their name is an "issue". I am myself a great supporter of Israel. The Israelis have bent over backwards to be fair to the other inhabitants of their ancient land and got only mass-murder of their people as a response. So I am delighted to note that our present Australian conservative government is also a resolute friend of Israel. A small excerpt:
"The Howard-Downer duumvirate in Australian foreign policy has changed our position on the Middle East at the UN in a way that is wholly remarkable, not only independent but positively brave, utterly politically incorrect and undoubtedly right in principle; and, amazingly, is meeting with success. Australia has always been a strong friend of Israel... the UN has established a vast bureaucracy dedicated to blackening Israel's name....

Most nations that Australians would regard as like-minded, such as the west Europeans, the Canadians and some others, traditionally find this all too hard to deal with and seek a coward's solace in abstaining from most anti-Israel resolutions and activities. Until about two years ago, that was Australia's way as well. But then came the wave of terror attacks on Israel, Israel's fence and the absurd overreaction to it. Alexander Downer and John Howard decided enough was enough.... it wasn't going to go along with the usual Israel bashing. In truth it was a proud moment in Australian foreign policy and certainly one of the deepest independence....

This vote was not a one-off. It has become the pattern of our voting on Israel-related issues. Canberra has attempted to use its influence with Pacific Island nations, and even in Southeast Asia, to try to produce a change. And, get this, it is working. Canada has joined Australia on some critical resolutions and the attitude towards Israel at the UN has begun to change noticeably."

And I again want to draw attention to Isi Leibler's article which shows, quite appallingly, that in Britain the Leftist intelligentsia are a greater source of antisemitism even than the Muslims. Thank goodness that their official leader, Tony Blair, is a decent man. If his name had been Adolf .....

Hooray! The good sense and moderation of ordinary British people has won the day again. There was an official move to ban members of Britain's anti-immigration party (the BNP) from being employed as firemen (firepersons?) in Dorset but the Dorset Fire Authority Committee rejected the move:
"One member of the committee stated: 'I think it is totally inappropriate to single out one political party in this way! The fact of the matter is, if any member or firefighter acts in an improper way, he will be dismissed." "And I don't see why we should single out this particular party. It is not proscribed, it stands in general elections, and I think it is totally wrong!" "If we were going to do it, we'd have done it with the Communist Party that had strong membership of the fire brigade union 20 years ago!" "We didn't do it then and I don't see why we should do this now!" The motion to reject the proposal was seconded, and a unanimous vote rejected the motion to ban BNP members from the Dorset Fire service."

And in my view it is the sense of moderation and fairness displayed above that has made Britain Great and which makes me proud of my British origins, remote though they now are. "First they came for the BNP ...." and in Britain people DID speak up. And I myself have spoken up in the most practical way that I know.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

AUSTRALIANS ONLY HAVE FIVE COMMANDMENTS



(We are great abbreviators). The quiz I put up recently about knowledge of Australian slang seems to have been very popular so I thought I might re-post the observations below:

From its foundation in 1788, Australia has always been a traditionally unholy place with a very low rate of churchgoing. Americans trace their founding fathers to religious zealots but Australians trace their foundations to convicts. And other major population elements in the white settlement of Australia -- such as goldrush "diggers" and Irish rebels -- did little to alter the culture originating from our convict origins. Only about 3% of modern-day Australians have convict ancestors (I am one of the 3%) but the early days formed a culture that has been passed on to others as they arrived -- just as only a small minority of Americans now have primarily English ancestry but English is nonethless the language of America. And Australia's only national hero to this day is Ned Kelly -- an Irish highway robber who eventually was hanged for his undoubted crimes.

So how come Australia is a civil, prosperous and pleasant place to live? It is because Australians DO have a widely agreed-on moral code -- but it is not a Christian one. It originates from the values of the English working class of yesteryear and can perhaps be conveniently summed up (in its original Australian slang) as the following five "Commandments":

* Thou shalt not dob in thy mates
* Thou shalt not bung on an act.
* Thou shalt not be a tall poppy
* Thou shalt give everyone a fair go
* Thou shalt be fair dinkum

Translating these into standard English yields APPROXIMATELY the following:

* You must not incriminate your friends to the boss, the police or anyone else. Loyalty to your associates is all-important.
* You must not be ostentatious or pretend to be what you are not.
* You must treat others as your equals. If you are seen as being better than others in anything but sport you will be made to suffer for it.
* You must be fair and permissive in your treatment of others.
* You must not be insincere or dishonest.

From Hammurabi onwards, most moral codes have had much in common and the Australian and Christian moral codes do also have things in common but the Australian moral code is not preached in churches. It is simply traditional and widely heartfelt.

UPDATE:

A mate has reminded me that I forgot one:  "Thou shalt not crawl to the boss"  -- a very important one indeed.  It's actually a sub-set of No. 5 above.  Insincere talk designed to ingratiate oneself with your employer is forbidden.



Friday, October 21, 2005

NOT ALL BLACKS ARE EQUAL



I was just leaving Wesley Hospital (A top Brisbane private hospital) yesterday after one of my regular encounters with the surgeon's knife (for skin cancer) when I saw a very recognizable figure walk in -- a member of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG). He seemed rather surprised when I greeted him but he shook my hand anyway. I remember writing a congratulatory letter to him about something or other in the 1980s (though I forget what it was about now) so it was a pleasure to shake his hand. And I think it is the only time I have shaken hands with a Prime Minister anyway.

Paias Wingti had a couple of terms in the 1980s and 1990s as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. He is of course a Melanesian ("black islander"). I grew up with Melanesians around the place and rather like them (as I have noted previously) -- which I would not say of certain other dark-skinned populations. Note however that I say "populations". There are good and bad individuals in all populations.

That got me thinking about Melanesian IQ. Lynn & Vanhanen give the mean IQ for Papua and New Guinea as 84 and at first glance that seems well justified. Melanesians have only recently emerged from the stone age. But it doesn't gell with my experience of them. I have met lots of Africans (both in Africa and in the USA) and I have met lots of Australian Aborigines and I have no doubts whatever about the accuracy of the mean IQ quoted for both those groups. But Melanesians seem in my experience of them to be a lot brighter than that. And with the difficulty of measuring ANYTHING cross-culturally (see e.g. here), I think I am entitled to reserve judgment on the matter.

But if Melanesians are reasonably bright, how come they were in the stone age within living memory? Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and I think this is one case where one of Marx's ideas was right (though Engels tried to talk him out of it). Marx believed in geographical determinism -- a common 19th century idea from which we get the phrase "blood and soil" as a description of what is important to people.

Mostly the idea is rubbish but I think it explains New Guinea. New Guinea is very large but it is also extraordinarily mountainous. It is probably the earth's most wrinkled bit of geography. And the people of course live in the many small valleys and are very effectively cut off from one-another by the surrounding mountains -- which is why every valley has its own language. So I think it was simply the isolation of the New Guineans that kept them in the stone age. There was little communication with outsiders and hence no diffusion of ideas. And that of course contrasts greatly with the relative ease of communication across the great Eurasian landmass.

And for some reason New Guinea has very little fauna to hunt. Birds and tree kangaroos are about it (Yes. Some kangaroos do live in trees). So living in those isolated valleys was pretty challenging and meant -- as in Northern Europe -- that you could only survive by planning ahead -- which the New Guneans did by planting their "gardens" and raising pigs. Basically, if your garden did not feed you, you starved. And gardens are not equally productive all the year round so root crops such as cassava had to be grown that could be kept aside for when there was nothing else to eat. So that's my contribution to the theoretical biology of Melanesians anyway. For very different reasons, I think they had pressures on their mental development that were similar to the pressures that produced modern Europeans.

I might mention that the Melanesian population in mainland Australia is small but they generally fit in well, are peacable and are well-liked. I mentioned my own positive view of Melanesians to the lady in my life -- who was for a time a nurse on Thursday Island -- the most populous bit of Melanesia that is still part of Australia -- and her response was simply: "They're lovely". And she is certainly in a position to know.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

MORE CRAP PSYCHOLOGY



Given the compulsive Leftism that permeates the social sciences, it is not surprising that the standards of scholarship in social science writing are normally so slight as to require a metaphorical microscope to find them. For many years I regularly wrote formal critiques of the most egregious examples of bad scholarship in psychology and sociology and I usually got them published in the academic journals concerned. It was however a great waste of time -- as both facts and reason are noted in the social sciences only insofar as they accord with Leftist prejudices. I think I should however keep the pot boiling to some extent so I do from time to time note on this blog and elsewhere how absurd various current claims from psychology are -- even if I can no longer be bothered to do a full formal critique of the particular article concerned. So I am going to make a few comments today on: Hastings, B.M. & Schaffer, B.A. (2005) "Authoritarianism and sociopolitical attitudes in response to threats of terror". Psychological Reports, 97, 623-630. It is fairly typical of the rubbish that psychologists produce in the guise of research so a critique of it might serve as a useful proxy for critiques of many similar such articles.

As is the usual fashion among psychologists, the authors make no attempt to sample any known population and proceed to base broad conclusions about human psychological processes on the answers to questionnaires given by 61 women and 10 men drawn from various classes at the small Mt. Aloysius College in Pennsylvania. The results are therefore of totally unknown generalizability. For the sake of the exercise, however, let us assume that there is some generalizability to their results and ask how those results were obtained.

What they did was to correlate several "scales" (standard collections of questions) with one another. They found that scales allegedly measuring Right-wing authoritarianism (the RWA scale), Democratic Values and Militarism tended to correlate with one another. They seem to think that this constitutes proof that conservative "authoritarians" are anti-democratic and militaristic. What a laugh! I won't bother reproducing any of the items of the three scales here but all three scales include many statements that would normally and uncontroversially be taken as indicating conservatism. So all that they have shown is in fact that people are consistent in their conservatism. People who express conservative views on one "scale" also tend to express conservative views on all three scales. Big deal! It is what scientists call an "artifactual" (researcher-induced) finding. I have been noting that sort of charade among psychologists for many years (see e.g. here).

The other thing they found, if I read it aright, is that people got more "authoritarian" (Read: "conservative") when they felt threatened. That is however just a regurgitation of the old New York adage: "A conservative is a liberal who was mugged last night". And everybody knows how conservative the armed forces are. As a former Army man myself, it has never surprised me (but has always pleased me) how many supportive emails I get with "mil" at the end of the sender's email address. So even if we take the Hastings & Schaffer results far more seriously than we should, we find that their final conclusion is little more than a commonplace. What would have been interesting is if they had explored WHY encounters with reality make people more conservative -- but that enquiry would have led them in very uncomfortable directions, I fancy.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

WHY I BLOG



Keith Burgess Jackson has suggested that I explain to all and sundry my motives for being such a dedicated blogger. I post daily to six blogs of my own and also contribute frequently to three other group blogs. So I suppose that is indeed in some need of explanation.

Unlike most bloggers I rarely make comments on my blogs about events in my life but, for some reason that is rather opaque even to me, I do put up a few reports of my personal doings on Majority Rights. It is a high-traffic blog but I don't think that has anything to do with it. I think I do it because that blog is mainly concerned with something that has a high emotional component -- immigration. And as someone who thinks that most (but not all) immigration, is OK I qualify there as the extreme Leftist in the group! (My views on that subject are however mainstream in Australia). So many of my posts are designed to move my co-bloggers and readers of the blog generally towards a greater acceptance of some types of immigration -- legal and selective immigration in particular. And I feel that personal anecdotes are more persuasive in that sphere than are rational arguments.

But that brings me to what I think is Keith's central enquiry: Do I think my blogging makes any difference? And I can answer that very easily. I know it does because my readers often tell me so. I doubt that I have ever converted a single Leftist from his Leftism but a lot of people of conservative views email me to tell me how my blogs are a sort of emotional and intellectual lifeline for them in the sea of liberalism that surrounds them. I am seen as one of the few voices who will invariably speak the plain truth, no matter how unpopular and politically incorrect it may be. Rarely does a day go by when someone does not email me with a grateful message of that kind. And I in turn greatly appreciate and am encouraged by such feedback.

But there is also a certain sense in which I blog for posterity. As an atheist, I have no hope of immortality of any kind so the ancient Greek idea that the only immortality you can have is in men's minds has some resonance with me. And some Greeks even achieved it. Will Socrates or Leonidas and his 300 Spartans at Thermopylae ever be forgotten? And over the period of my lifetime I have already seen many of the views that I have held move from being absurdities to realities. So I think I already have some basis for feeling that, in the future, I will be recognized as someone who got it right when most others did not. I repeatedly find that my theories and assumptions about the world work out in practice (even on the stockmarket!) and I think that, as time goes by, my way of thinking will become more influential precisely because it does yield good predictions. So I actually hope for more influence in the future than I have in the present.

So, like many scientists, my goal is to further human knowledge and understanding but my views on most things are so out of the mainstream among intellectuals now that only the future holds any promise of my achieving that. And since many scientists were ridiculed in their lifetime for putting forward what are now accepted truths, I don't think I am being totally unrealistic in that. In particular, I hope that my dissection of the motivations behind Leftism will one day win broad acceptance and thus reduce the evils that Leftists are forever trying to inflict upon us.

And how do I manage to write so much? One reason is that as a retired man I have the time for it. I spend about 12 hours a day in front of my computer screen. Another is that I am a born academic: Writing is what I have always done. And a third reason is that I find the world of ideas far more exciting than any other so I have few other interests in life. And there always seem to be women in my life who put up with that, rather surprisingly. Women are such fine creatures that I will never understand homosexuals.